Write as if No One is Reading

People don’t ask, “How’s the writing going?” the way they used to.  They probably know.  It’s been too long since I put fingers to keyboard for any sustained amount of time.

The advice we’re given is “treat writing like a job.”  In other words, show up, sit down and write.  That was easy for me to do when I was writing the manuscript now gathering dust on my bookshelf.  Three years ago, as I dived into research about World War II, the contributions of civilian women during wartime and Japanese internment camps, it was easy to set the alarm at five.  I was on a mission to complete a full-length novel.  Eighty-eight thousand words later the job was done.

I just don’t know if I’m on a mission any more.

I haven’t lost my love, only my drive.  Or maybe it’s not my drive.  Maybe it’s my vision – I can no longer see in my mind’s eye the writer I wanted to be in 2008.  The writer who craved commercial success has disappeared.

An old friend said to me last night, “Of course you’re not writing – these days you’re too busy living.” And then a few hours later a new friend said, “Write as if no one is reading.”  When I began to study the craft of writing that was my focus – writing for the potential reader with the conviction that one day the President of the United States would put a hardcover copy of my best seller in his summer vacation carry-on.  And now?  I think it’s time to begin writing for me – to color outside the lines a bit or maybe allow the flow of words to lead me down an unexpected path.

(Why does that make me feel uncomfortable?  What would happen if I did that?  What would I discover?)

With the counsel of those friends still sitting warmly in my heart I’m going to embark on a new writer’s path.  No matter what I read in all the “how to write” books I am not going to treat writing like a job.  The writing that I want to produce – the writing that nurtures or challenges or pulls at you – that  writing is not a job.

And so the dozen half-written essays on my desktop, the few short stories I began but never finished and the unfinished novel languishing in an electronic file – they’re all going to wait a while longer.  I’ve got to go live a little and then write about it as though no one is reading.

Just Say “Yes”


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The “we love your writing but unfortunately we’re unable to use your work” emails were filling the inbox regularly this week.  Ok, none of them actually used the words “we love your writing.” But despite being letters of rejection, in most cases the author attempted to put a positive spin on things.

“We look forward to seeing more of your work!” 

“Keep writing!”

“We haven’t found a place for your work, but we know it will find a good home elsewhere.” (Note to editors of Le Petite Zine:  I’m not trying to re-home a puppy.)

These all beat one of my first rejection letters:

“I found the dialogue stilted and just was not compelled to turn the pages.”  Ouch.  That one hurt.

The messy business of rejection is part of the writer’s life.  Some days it’s easy to brush off.  On other days it requires a foot stomping, ‘f-bomb’ flying hissy fit.  But either way, after the initial sting and whether we want to believe it or not, rejection moves us forward.

Still, life would be much easier if I wasn’t compelled to write.  Certainly there would be less rejection.  More than that, however, I’d cease being an introspective recluse and become the life of the party. I’d see more sunshine and maybe trade my pasty writer’s pallor for a tan.  I would sleep in.

No I wouldn’t.

Even before I became addicted to the mad rush of creating a perfectly formed sentence I enjoyed the quiet reflection found in the company of a few good friends (even imaginary ones) over a crazed and crowded party.  My lack of a tan is somewhat intentional and that lie in?  Impossible.  My brain wakes up at 6:00 AM whether I want it to or not.  I’m a morning person.

So I might as well write and suffer the consequences.  I can’t stop now because one of these days there’s going to be a ‘yes’ in my inbox.  And when there is…